What is a morning reading routine?
“Morning Time” can be a big topic in the Charlotte Mason world. Homeschooling moms, including myself, use it during our homeschool days to consolidate things that might otherwise get lost in a busy schedule or as a way to be more intentional about spreading the feast wide. Lately, I’ve even seen some moms printing out “menus” for their current Morning Time offerings as a way to emphasize the feast idea as well as make the time more structured for their kids.
The idea behind Morning Time is quite simple: have a specific time set aside, usually before getting to lessons, for things that you’d like to include in your homeschool day like poetry, art, music, miscellaneous readings, things to memorize, etc., that are important to your family.
One of the best things about this time is that it’s very flexible. If you find that something you’ve included isn’t working well, you can modify it, try something else, or eliminate it altogether. While your regular “lesson time” with subjects such as history and math and science can certainly grow character (especially if you’re using living books!), I feel like Morning Time allows for that growth even more by including things that instill your family’s values in your lesson time.
Because this has worked so well in our homeschool, I decided I might try making something similar for myself to do first thing in the morning before beginning the daily routine.
What are the benefits of a morning reading routine?
About three years ago, I read The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson. I struggled with this book in some ways, but one story that stuck with me was how Clarkson’s kids always remembered her having a “quiet time” or devotional time or personal time with God each morning. It was a time when she was in a quiet space, maybe with a cup of coffee or tea, read her Bible, and prayed.
This book wasn’t the first time this concept had presented itself to me as I grew up in churches and schools where personal devotional time was a high priority. But for some reason, the way she explained it felt different to me. I appreciated the fact that she was not only leading by example for her kids so that they had this memory but also taking time for herself. She knew she needed to feed her soul in this way, and she set this time aside expressly for this purpose.
Admittedly, my morning routine severely lacked any type of communion with God at this point in my life. I’ve never been a morning person and devotional time has rarely worked its way into my AM hours. Before I had kids, I’d occasionally have a short devotional time in the afternoon, and during the year before my son’s birth, I managed to go through Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope with friends, but that was pretty much it.
After my son came along, I spent a few months when he was very tiny listening to Brian Hardin read a portion of the Bible every day while I made breakfast. Often, though, I found myself getting through the entire recording and realizing I hadn’t heard a single word as I was focused on other things while it played.
Aside from that, reading the Bible and even having a time of purposeful prayer each day was sporadic at best during these years, even though I genuinely did want to do these things regularly. Honestly, when my son came along, having never really been around a small child for an extended amount of time before, I was just trying to figure out what in the world a day should look like for us. Attempting to include All.The.Things was overwhelming to my sleep-deprived brain. When my daughter was born three-and-a-half years later, my ability to be more intentional with my time became even less, and the most I could manage was praying the daily offices from Phyllis Tickle’s Divine Hours series. It was at least something to center me back on God a few times a day, and I was so thankful (and still am!) for these books during that time in my life, but I knew I eventually wanted something more.
Of course, during this time, I also joined the smartphone minions and began wasting away in the land of scrolling. My mornings, especially when I started doing virtual assistant work, usually started with checking my email and jumping on the information superhighway first thing. I excused myself because I felt like I was in survival mode, but obviously, my habits weren’t doing me any favors in terms of spiritual growth, and I preferred not to think about the example I was giving my kids.
In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren wrote about what she did when she realized she was beginning her days in a similar fashion:
…I decided for Lent that year I’d exchange routines: I’d stop waking up with my phone, and instead I’d make the bed, first thing. I also decided to spend the first few minutes after I made the bed sitting (on my freshly made bed) in silence. So I banished my smartphone from the bedroom.
My new Lenten routine didn’t make me wildly successful or cheerfully buoyant as some had promised, but I began to notice, very subtly, that my day was imprinted differently. The first activity of my day, the first move I made, was not that of a consumer, but that of a colaborer with God. Instead of going to a device for a morning fix of instant infotainment, I touched the tangible softness of our well-worn covers, tugged against wrinkled cotton, felt the hard wood beneath my bare feet. In the creation story, God entered chaos and made order and beauty. In making my bed I reflected that creative act in the tiniest, most ordinary way. In my small chaos, I made small order.Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Tish Harrison Warren
So with these ideas in my back pocket, over the last three years, I have slowly made a morning routine for myself.
Before the kids get up, sometimes when they’re already awake, and definitely before I even touch my phone, I climb out of bed and go downstairs to our living room. There I curl up in a green armchair we got on clearance at Ikea and make my way through a stack of books that permanently resides on the small table beside it. The books have changed throughout these last few years because my morning routine is just as flexible as that of our school time, but the general rhythm has been the same. And even though I don’t do it every single day, this is the first time in my life that I have consistently had a quiet time like this for this long.
It has been a good thing.
What do you do during a morning reading routine?
I’m sharing what my morning reading routine looks like here, but this is a very personal thing, so I’m not sharing this to say that I think everyone’s morning reading routine should look this way. We all grow in different ways, and your way probably looks different than mine. Also, we can manage more in some seasons of life, while in other seasons, not so much. For instance, despite my waxing poetic about what this time is for me right now and regretting my lack of it just a few years ago, I most likely would not have been able to do this when my children were very young. This routine is what I can manage right now in this season of life.
The very first thing I do is light a candle. This small thing gives the time a sense of being set apart. It’s also an indication to my kids that mama is having her morning reading time, so if they need something, they may need to wait a bit AND my daughter also likes blowing it out at the end. 🙂 Then I take a few deep breaths and bring my mind into God’s presence (as Brother Lawrence says), attempting to flush away all the thoughts and distractions pulling at my attention.
Over the last few years, my routine has been to follow the Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families from the Book of Common Prayer, so I begin by praying Psalm 51 from the morning prayers collectively for my family. This practice took me a while to get used to as I grew up in a church that frowned upon using pre-written prayers (aside from the Lord’s Prayer) and any kind of traditional liturgy. However, in recent years, I’ve found a great deal of comfort in repeating these verses and prayers each and every day.
I then begin going down the stack of books. Since August of last year, I’ve been part of an Idyll Challenge group making our way through Charlotte Mason’s volumes. I have found that if I include these readings in my morning reading routine, they actually get done. However, when I’m done with the challenge, I will most likely go back to reading just one book in the morning or read something shorter like a volume of poetry. Right now, we are reading through Ourselves, so that’s where I begin.
That reading is followed by whatever book I am going through at the time that might fall into a “religious” or spiritual growth category, which is currently The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I call these my “mentor” books and keep a list of this genre of books recommended in other books I have read or by someone I find particularly inspiring in the religious world.
For the last three years, just by reading a small amount of these books each day, I have made my way through at least part of the following books:
- Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (this is my second-and-a-half time going through it :))
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
- Andrew Murray on Holiness by Lance Wubbels
- The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
- Scale How Meditations by Charlotte Mason
- Home Education by Charlotte Mason
- A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly
- Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason
- Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies
- School Education by Charlotte Mason
Some of these books are conveniently broken up into small sections that are perfect for reading each day, while others I just go through a page or two. Another benefit to reading slowly like this is that I have more time to ruminate on a section, rather than reading a large chunk of it and losing essential parts.
I then move on to the daily office lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer. This practice includes a Psalm, a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the New Testament, a reading from the Gospels for each day of the year, and special readings for feast or holy days. As I wrote above, I did not grow up in a church that followed any kind of traditional liturgy and actually frowned on this practice, so this has been a learning curve for me. Since adopting this practice, though, I have loved going through the seasons of the church year and taking part in feast days during my morning routine. Revisiting sections of the Bible and stories from the life of Christ during a specific time of the year or going through the readings about a particular figure from the Bible on a specific date feels, in some ways, like meeting an old friend. If you’re not partial to the Anglican/Episcopal selections, I have a few other resources that provide some form of liturgy suggested below.
I then offer 1 Peter 1:3 as a prayer, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, and then the weekly Collect. Recently, I’ve also been going through the prayers from The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife, doing whichever one happens to fall on that day of the month as well as any that cover something weighing on my heart.
After that, I have my more spontaneous prayer time, offering up specific requests for my family, friends, etc. Then I finish with the final prayer of the Daily Devotions and begin my day.
I often end up underlining and book darting passages as I go, but I don’t want to interrupt that time to record anything in my commonplace book. Instead, I was trying to think of some Sunday occupations I could include in my schedule and decided that was the perfect day to write down any passages I noted from the previous week. This practice allows me to reflect on something that stood out to me earlier in the week, and I like that it also sets Sunday apart from other days.
So this is what it looks like right now, though I’m sure this will change as it already has over the last three years. I have a few other books in mind that I’d like to work through after I finish this one, but right now, I’m trying to focus on what I’m taking from the current book instead of always looking to what I’ll do next, which is a bad habit of mine. This morning routine practice allows for growth in many ways!
You do not need to include any kind of liturgy in your reading time, but I have enjoyed having it part of mine. Here are a few resources that I have used at one time or another:
- The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle – This is a three-volume series that I read through consistently, usually doing at least one office per day when my children were very young. I would set my alarm for 11 am and 5 pm, and as soon as it went off, the kids knew that it was time for mama’s “office,” and she was going to a quiet place to pray. If you don’t have much time in your day to have personal reading time as outlined above, I can’t recommend these books enough.
- The Book of Common Prayer (BCP – also available online) – I use the Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families from this book to lay out my morning liturgy. It also includes prayers for specific people and occasions.
- Common Prayer – This is less formal than the BCP, but the liturgy takes more time each day. I like that it includes hymns and readings about modern Christians.
Bible Reading Schedules
I find having a reading schedule helpful as it allows me to make my way through the majority of the Bible and focuses on specific readings for feast and holy days during the liturgical year.
- Revised Common Lectionary (Downloadable version here.) – This is a reading schedule used in several denominations.
- The BCP also has a daily reading schedule that repeats on a 2-year cycle (this is the one I follow). Sunday readings in Anglican Communion churches are often taken from the Revised Common Lectionary. (A planner has also been made with all of the daily readings in it.)
- Bible Gateway Reading Plans – Bible Gateway offers several different plans for reading through the Bible.
- Daily Audio Bible – This app for your phone offers a recorded daily reading and goes through the entire Bible in a year. (The day’s passages are also here if you’d rather read it.)
Books for Daily Reading
These books do not contain a specific form of liturgy but do offer daily readings.
- The Cloud of Witness – This book was given to graduates of Charlotte Mason’s House of Education by Ms. Mason herself. It includes a verse and a few short readings of quotes or excerpts from poetry and follows the church calendar. (There is also a version for children!)
- Scale How Meditations by Charlotte Mason
- Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore – I feel like this is a practical way to look at prayer when you’re either feeling in a rut or just aren’t sure how to do it. It helped make my prayer time more meaningful, and I especially appreciated it paired with her book Praying God’s Word.
- The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie O’Martian – This provides 31 specific prayers to offer for your children throughout the month. Though I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says, I love the emphasis she puts on the power of prayer. A friend who likes this book has also recommended Praying the Scriptures for your Children by Jodie Berndt, which I plan to go through next.
- The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian – This has the same outline as the one above but instead focuses on praying for your husband.
These are spiritual formation books or books on the topic of Christianity that have stood out to me, and I found to be especially inspiring.
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster – If I had time to read this book every year, I would. It was extremely thought-proviking and inspiring.
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
- A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly
Cindy Rollins, who I consider the expert on Morning Time, also offers a course for moms who aren’t sure where to start when putting together a Morning Time or reading routine for themselves. It’s available in the summer, but she also offers mentorship in this area in her Patreon account as well!
Do you have a daily reading routine? If so, what do you include?